Does It Really Run in Your Family?

In this May 6, 2010 file photo, a radiologist uses a magnifying glass to check mammograms for breast cancer in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Overwhelmingly you will hear people’s responses about disease, “it runs in my family.” Does it really run in your family? One of the major contributing factors to the manifestation of disease in the human body is the food we put in our body, environmental influences and some genetics.

Geneticists strongly believe that disease is caused by the interaction between genes (genetic makeup) and the environment. Two people may react different even if exposed to the same environmental agents, because of variances in genetic factors. One may be at high risk to develop the disease and one may be at low risk to develop the disease even if exposed to the same environmental agent. Some environmental agents are: mold, ozone, pesticides, air, pollution, cleaning solutions, dust mites and some foods and medications. Researchers have also confirmed that pathogens play a strong role in chronic disease. Pathogens, such as bacteria can be passed on from one generation to the next via the mother to the fetus; from the father to the child via sperm; blood donation, bone marrow donation; organ donation/transplantation; and social contact.

Let’s use cancer as a model; cancer is caused by a carcinogen (cancer causing agent) that can lead to the development of cancer. A few lifestyle agents that can cause cancer are: chemicals from tobacco smoke, radiation from the sun, char-grilled foods, and processed meats preserved with added chemicals, or preserved by curing, salting or smoking. The World Health Organization (WHO) stated that studies have proven that lifestyle factors are contributing factors or primary determinants for most cancers. Contributing factors that can’t be altered are your age, sex and race and/or ethnicity. The lifestyle factors include, smoking tobacco, dietary and exercise habits, carcinogens (cancer causing agents) and infectious agents. Roughly 5-10% of cancer is genetic. Genetic predisposition or genetic susceptibility is when a person is not born with a disease but may be at high risk of acquiring the disease from a genetic mutation often inherited from a parent. Look at genetic predisposition as the likelihood or chance of developing the disease from a gene mutation or family history. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) lists breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and skin cancer as genetic disorders. Parkinson’s disease, sickle cell disease, autism, cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome and Chron’s disease are a few known genetic disorders. Let’s not overlook the fact that there are several human diseases that don’t have a genetic factor and those that do, such diseases are under investigation by NHGRI. Then there are some diseases that are not diagnosable by physicians and these diseases are classified as an undiagnosed rare or genetic condition. Multifactorial inheritance disorders are disorders caused in conjunction with inherited mutation of genes and environmental factors. Multifactorial inheritance disorders attribute to heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

An article published with The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of NIH states that genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic disease. Ask yourself is this disease really genetic or do me and family member(s) share common environments and other potential factors that increase their risk? Do I overly indulge in processed meats that have the potential to cause cancer? Do we live in environments heavily saturated with fast food that you eat on a constant basis? Do I smoke cigarettes that can influence lung or throat cancer? Do I eat red meat that can influence heart disease? Do I have a healthy dieting and physical activity ritual that will positively decrease the likelihood of obesity and/or overweight? There are preventative measures that will decrease the likelihood of chronic disease. So before you decide that the chronic disease that may plague your family is genetic think about the various factors that increase the likelihood of that chronic disease(s).

Health Neurotics, LLC is an emerging health promotion firm in Washington, DC offering health promotion consultation products and services. Health Neurotics specialize in diet and physical activity aspects of health promotion and health education for adolescents using health literacy standards and cultural competence to targeted demographics. One of our most celebrated efforts was a guest appearance on Sirius XM Shade 45 nationally syndicated radio show, First Aid with Kelly Kinkaid focusing on Diabetes Awareness Month. Our soon to be available highlighted invention, Body Cycle is a health education game for adolescents 12 and older to actively engage in learning about chronic disease and behavior change. A Kickstarter campaign soon to be launched to raise capital to fund the app development of Body Cycle, preview with this link, https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/43371897/280157118?ref=4it77i&token=28d4290f. Contact Health Neurotics at Brittay.e.tillman@gmail.com.

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